The New York Jets are one-of-three unlucky teams that are forced to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots twice a year. They've done so for the past 15 years with Brady at the helm, and they haven't faired well. Since the start of the 2001 season, the Jets are just 9-23 against the Patriots.
The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, won both their meetings against the Patriots this season, the most recent of which came on Sunday in the AFC Championship. It wasn't Peyton Manning and the offense that won the game, either. It was the defense.
Denver's pass rush was relentless, hitting Brady 20 times -- the most of any quarterback this season. One would assume that pressure came from blitzes and exotic schemes, right? Wrong. As hard as it is to believe, the Broncos blitzed a season-low 17.2 percent of the time on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus.
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The Broncos blitzed a season-low 17.2 percent of the time yesterday— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 25, 2016
So what exactly does this game mean for the Jets? Well, for starters, it gives them somewhat of a blueprint for beating their rivals, the Patriots. Getting pressure and hits on Brady is obviously key, as they proved in the AFC title game.
The biggest factor in doing so is being able to make Brady uncomfortable without blitzing, allowing the defense to drop seven players into coverage. The Broncos executed this to perfection, constantly making Brady hold onto the ball longer than he'd like because of the number of defenders in coverage.
They took away his first reads consistently, forcing him to go to his second and third options while attempting to avoid sacks at the same time.
Fortunately, the Jets are close to having the necessary personnel to do that. If they bring back Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016, they'll have three pass rushing defensive linemen to rotate as they did this season. Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams join Wilkerson in that group, both of whom can generate pressure on the quarterback.
They're not as dynamic and dominant as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who are stand-up pass rushers, but they are disruptive up front. If the Jets can add a fast rusher off the edge in the mold of Miller and Ware, it'll only add to their ability to get to Brady. That player likely isn't on the roster with rookie Lorenzo Mauldin being the closest to that type of guy, but he's unpolished.
On the backend, the Jets' secondary can match up with any group in the league. Led by Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine, New York has a ton of talent at defensive back. Antonio Cromartie will likely be cut after struggling in 2015, but Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist are flexible safeties who can play in coverage and in stopping the run. They can also match up with Rob Gronkowski on the outside and in the middle of the field.
Having a consistent pass rush to pair with a great secondary is a match made in heaven, and it's something the Jets are only a couple of players away from having. Cornerback isn't necessarily a need for the offseason, but a pass-rushing outside linebacker could work wonders -- as could a middle linebacker.
The Broncos gave the Jets (and every other team) a blueprint for stopping the Patriots, they just need to add a few pieces on defense to build a roster that's made to win the AFC East. That's not to say the Broncos and Jets have identical defenses, but they're similar enough to give New York a chance to slow Brady in the near future.